The Future of shops, offices and money

Story proposed by Tim McQuoid Mason

Hmmm! I think a good old egg and bacon fry-up with boerewors and mushrooms is called for.

(At least the meat tastes like the real thing, (which I haven’t eaten since 2024), even if it is earthworm protein.

Today, I am off to Bunnings to collect the customised shovel I had ordered this morning – a glitch had caused a drone jam, so it couldn’t be delivered immediately.

Amazing really – all I had to do is think about what I needed and tell Siri who placed the order, giving my specifications. Bunnings will have it printed by the time I get there and they have offered me a complimentary coffee as they could not deliver immediately.

The self-drive Uber Flicar whizzed off, covering the 10 km distance in 7 minutes, while I flipped through my voting preferences on the issues before e-Parliament.

My shovel was loaded at the roof touch and go landing pad and my coffee was handed to me – they know exactly how I like it. Siri had already paid Bunnings.

I told the Flicar to return via the Protein Bar Co-op so I could pick up some fillet steak – the new worm algae protein meat barbequed magnificently and gave me a perfect medium rare. The Bar took a box of my tamarillos, pawpaws and apple chives in exchange.

The fillet would be accompanied by fresh salad from my own vertical garden and home-made sauerkraut. I was also going to toast some crickets as they were now juicy and plump. That was why I needed the new shovel – to be able to transfer compost from our waste processing output to the garden rows and insect farms.

Digital currency replaced cash in the 2020’s and the universal basic income eliminated poverty, so the old capitalist wealth inequality has become largely irrelevant. Wealth accumulation still occurs mostly through stock exchange barter and innovation development. Fifty percent of corporate profit is channelled into New World Exploration and Technology.

All world citizens are enabled and required to be self-sufficient by producing their own food and bartering surplus for goods they don’t produce themselves in their own living areas. Local co-operatives ensure you can get those products you or your neighbours don’t grow in exchange for your surplus produce.

I am really proud of the fact that Bahr Place precinct is self-sustainable and produces sufficient to supply fresh produce to the 10 families that now shared our precinct and still have plenty for barter.

This is the original 800 m2 section that we bought in 2013. I added two high rise blocks with four apartments each and our tower has two apartments. This allows space for a recreation area which has real grass.

The old city centre office blocks were converted to residential usage after the Covid plague required remote working from home. They rapidly converted to residential use and filled. Population pressure drove up the cost of land, so increasing residential density of suburbs was imperative. Robust design and continuous building inspection and monitoring ensured safe and healthy living standards. Everything is built remotely, then flown in and installed on site in a matter of hours. IKEA overtook Amazon some time ago.

 The chickens give me eggs and meat and are happy scratching through our vertical gardens on all the walls and the rooves. The water tanks give me prawns, mussels and trout. Admittedly my fruit trees need to be pruned regularly as the basement area is under 3 metres high. The arnica did exceptionally well and was great for aches and pains from a hard day’s gardening; as did the marijuana I grew under licence for pain relief of the few remaining cancer victims not cured by gene therapy.

My beer and kombucha brews are very popular at online barter markets on Sundays. Uber drones allow instant delivery.

Of course we print most of our clothes and hard stuff we require on 3-D printers. We sometimes have to source the print materials from vendors. It is ordered automatically and droned in to our rooftop immediately.

We harvest and store all our water and energy needs, so have no reliance on large utility corporations of the past.

We have little to complain about – I am only 95 and Siri told me my body indicators showed I was in perfect health and can expect to live another 30 years at least, before I get treed*. I am proud of the fact that I have reversed cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s and still have one each of my original knees, eyes and hips!

(I have refused my great grandchild’s request to clone me for her next child –  I believe we are all unique and special in our own way and should stay that way).

*Click to follow the link

Farouk – Floppy and Fearless

Story proposed by Amory Cobbledick  

The names of our pets reflect the world at the time of naming. So when my Shetland pony, Pikkie (Afrikaaans for little one) had a foal, my father christened him Timoshenko, after a World War 2 Russian General.

Our neighbours in the late 1950’s, got a dog and he was christened Farouk. I assume something about this large bull mastiff must have brought to mind His Majesty Farouk I, by the grace of God, King of Egypt and the Sudan.

The name means “the one who distinguishes between right and wrong”. Not a good name for this dog who struggled to make that distinction, nor I believe, could his namesake.

 Farouk 1 was of 10/16 Circassian 3/16 Turkish 2/16 French and 1/16 Albanian descent – in other words a real mongrel. Ruki, the name we called the dog, was pure-bred, but also behaved like a mongrel.

The Bullmastiff breed was bred to tackle and pin a poacher that comes onto private land which was sometimes awkward.

Ruki was also called Slobber Joe on account of the copious saliva slobber he produced. This young dog was very big, undisciplined and randy – he tried to knock down any running thing – and then he would mount and hump it, which could be embarrassing or hilarious, depending on your viewpoint.

It happened frequently to all of us. I can remember being paralysed with laughter when it happened to others and absolutely mortified when it happened to me.

Invariably, the subject of his affections was covered in slobber. He also hated horses but was otherwise quite friendly stupid.

While talking about dogs and embarrassment, I will share an agonising experience, if you promise not to tell. Sir Brian and Lady Riva Marwick came to say goodbye to my brother Tim and I at our boarding school, St Marks. Sir Brian was the retiring Resident Commissioner of Swaziland and an old family friend. As briefed, we were waiting, polished and clean in front of Duncan House, when the Austin Princess with fluttering flag rolled up. We could hear the whispers and scuffles of the boarders peering through windows and doors.

Sir Brian and Lady Riva alighted and bade their adieu’s and we blushed and mumbled. Just then Fly, the school mongrel arrived to see what was going on. Unbeknown to His Excellency, Fly cocked his leg and piddled against his tall grey flannelled leg.

Immediately Tim and I gasped and snorted and squirmed and bit our lips; while the audience erupted in poorly suppressed giggles. It was sheer agony.

Fortunately Lady Riva had seen what had happened and hustled him into the car and away. Oh dear! That was extremely painful and funny.

My Dad’s dog Bessie, a red bull terrier kept us in line: she was patient and wise and more sensible than any of us.

Sometimes on Sundays, we would go on a hike into the mountains around Mbabane, taking Farouk and Bessie to look after us.

Mum wrapped tomato sandwiches in greaseproof paper and we would take Daddy’s army haversack and water bottle and off we’d go climbing the hill behind the Police camp. Bessie would lead the way and try to curb Ruki’s exuberance.

We must have made an inspiring sight: three small barefooted boys in large hats accompanied by a towering mastiff and led by a grey muzzled bull terrier.

One terrible day, we met an old grey horse and Farouk went for it, leaping up and biting its throat.

It galloped off bleeding from the throat and we fled. We heard it was found dead and lived in terror for many days…

I don’t recall any other adventures with Farouk, so maybe he was moved to an area where there were no horses and people didn’t mind being knocked over and humped!

I also cannot think of that dog without a grin!

Eating litchis

Story propsed by my grand daughter, Elba Rose, 3 years old Tues 2 March

It appears that some people spell and pronounce the word as lychee (ugh!) 

The litchi is a member of the Soapberry family, but should have been classified under sugarberry. It is a small juicy, deliciously sweet fruit. Accordingly a number need to be eaten at a time.

Delicate people choose to pierce the thin, slightly spiky skin with a knife and peel it off with their fingers, thereby losing most of the juice. For a number of good reasons, I just bite into the skin.

That way, if you simultaneously slurp, you get most of the juice that explodes from the fruit. The rest runs down your chin and neck. I have got used to that and shower after finishing as many as I can eat.

Once the skin is pierced and the first juice splash slurped, delicately peel off the top half of the skin shell with your teeth. Then squeeze the bottom half with your fingers and the fruit pops into your mouth. Savour the soft sweet flesh, then bite softly to the hard smooth pip in the centre and peel off the flesh which can be swallowed without hardly any chewing necessary. Discard the pip and the peel after ensuring any remaining juice has been slurped.

We had great pleasure introducing my daughter’s well brought up young Englishman to litchis.

He is highly observant if somewhat hasty, as young men can be. He skilfully mimicked my bite and slurp with a masterly tilt of the head and salacious slurp. To our surprise and glee, he then chewed and swallowed the pip! He had been too shy to ask, and just assumed!

 It was also the favourite fruit of a Chinese Emperor’s favoured concubine. The emperor had fresh fruit delivered from Guangdong to the capital at great expense by a special courier service with fast horses.

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!

 

 Litchis contain several healthy minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, such as potassium, copper, vitamin C, epicatechin, and rutin. These may help protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The pip may be slightly poisonous. 

My eldest brother, Mpunzane is a litchi addict. Whenever he noticed a litchi tree in fruit in his suburb, he would send in my brother and me under cover of darkness, to liberate a sample of the fruit. After some close calls and an attack of conscience (our mother’s), he planted a litchi tree in his garden. 

In those days he didn’t have Google to tell him that the trees bear fruit in about three months. Somebody told him it took seven years. We would be taken to inspect the tree each year. It never yielded any fruit, until it was seven years old, at least twenty feet high and wide. After good early rain it gave rise to a myriad of fruit flowers, then cascades of fruit started developing to everyones’ joy.

Yet, no ripe fruit survived. Until on a visit, I awoke very early one morning and went for a walk. I heard noises from the tree and went to investigate. There was the gardener hauling down branches and plucking the fruit which he dropped into a sack. 

To cut a long story short, he had been doing this every year, hence no fruit, since year one.

Well now,  with the thief gone, we could look forward to a harvest. We left them for a few more days to ripen perfectly. The evening before thay long awaited, glorious first harvest we heard an ominous sound – the happy call of a vervet monkey. We rushed to the tree and 30 monkeys scattered. The ground was littered with fruit peels and pips. The total harvest was 17 fruit – the monkeys and thieves got the rest – every year.

That should tells you something about the joy of eating litchis.

How I went from ordinary to extraordinary!

I chose to accept the topics proposed, so I accepted this one – I would not have chosen to do so, it is quite personal.

I was never ordinary, I was born extraordinary.

But my parents did the right thing, they treated me as ordinary. So I learned to do ordinary things and didn’t feel different

The fact that I was physically extraordinary just meant I looked different and did things differently.

My family and friends took no notice, sometimes trying to help if I was slow. I rejected these attempts, sometimes rudely. I can’t remember anything my contemporaries could do that I couldn’t. I often wasn’t very good but neither they nor I cared.

They did me right.

Some tasks were perhaps a bit more challenging so I developed some sort of tenacity or determination to persevere. It was sometimes embarrassing – I recall a fancy dinner at the Royal Swazi Hotel with a friend and his parents.

I ordered lamb chops and insisted and persisted on cutting them up myself, rebuffing all offers of help. Everyone, including me, was mortified. I usually order spaghetti if I go out these days.

In some instances I was downright dangerous and once I gave up. I still feel sick about it, even though I know it was the right thing to do.

I was a Personnel Superintendent on a shaft sinking site of a new mine and felt it important that I visited the workplace. During the years 1995 and 1996, Moab Khotsong recorded the worst safety statistics in the mining industry

Eventually sick of my nagging the Mine Manager took me with him.

We climbed into a bowl suspended on a cable and were lowered down the shaft a few hundred feet. It stopped and we dismounted onto a narrow platform on the side of the shaft, which was only about 800 meters deep by then.

The rest of the descent was via a vertical ladder. My hands became so slippery with sweat that I surrendered at the third rung and returned to the platform. I chickened out.

Extraordinary is someone else’s judgement.

I am not extraordinary, I just do things differently. I have no claim to anything but ordinary, except maybe my sense of humour.

Story proposed by Rubes Carter

The ups and downs of immigrating

All my bags are packed

 I’m ready to go …

Taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing its horn,

Already I am so lonesome I could die

‘Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again …

That about wraps the downs. They hit immediately, like jumping out an aeroplane door – you realise you really don’t know anything about parachute landing.

Doubts are huge and the final rituals of departure are agonising.

The children are with you and it doesn’t help them to see your snot en trane – so you have to pull on a brave face and smile.

Immigration is a bureaucratic odyssey of queues, forms, fees and fretful clerks. Fortunately my wife is calm and patient; if it had been left to me we would have been extradited immediately!

For years after you get there, you watch aeroplanes flying west, wistfully. You wonder whether you did the right thing, you feel you have denied your heritage, abandoned your roots and you long to return to your siblings – even though you usually fight with them after a few days together!

The ups are realised only years later, when we saw our children graduate, intelligent and independent and unscarred by the dichotomy of the society we had left, with only happy memories of the land of their birth.

We really enjoyed the high ups of immigration after our second immigration – this time in search of the sun, to a bigger land where our children were settling. This time we were on our own and free to choose without having to leave family too far behind.

Those that stayed were close enough to visit. Our dog came with us.

There was little pain on leaving and happy anticipation of the new promise of The Lucky Country.

So I suppose your emotional buoyancy depends on why, when and where you go and what you leave.

The security and calmness of your new world compared to the degradation, dishonesty and deceit of where you started, is consoling.

It is a gentle emotion, not raw like the verlang for tuisland, which lingers.

Story proposed by Linda Owen Guy and Rose Glen

Umqombothi

It’s a lovely word. The ‘qo‘ just rolls of the tongue onto the roof of your mouth with a soft click and the next ‘o’ comes out as ‘aw’: oohm tk awm baww tea

It is the chicken noodle soup of South Africa especially in the Eastern Cape.

It is brewed for special occasions. For young Xhosa men (abakwetha) the introduction to umqombothi is usually painful. It is brewed to celebrate their initiation to manhood, which involves isolation and circumcision. I have never drunk it.

Beer is of course a staple of most civilisations, essentially because back in the day local water supplies soon became contaminated by poor sanitation and livestocks’ lack of regard for water purity. The alcohol in beer killed most of the germs in the water and the grain was extremely nourishing. That is why most wise people like beer – they are survivors.

In Africa where my soul was born, there are a number of natural brews of which probably the most popular is mahewu because of its simplicity. It is essentially ingrained into the rural dweller’s life and is shared communally. Both these drinks are grain based and only mildly alcoholic.

However, as has no doubt been experienced recently in South Africa, where alcohol sales were banned in the Covid lockdown, people go to great lengths to make alcoholic drinks.

I can remember my father warning me never to drink home brewed shebeen beer, makanjane, as brewers often added dubious ingredients to improve the ‘kick’. Such ingredients included methylated spirits and battery acid, as well as dead rats…. Mind you there is a pervasive myth that the secret Guinness ingredient is a beef hindquarter!

The brewing of pineapple beer was part of the unofficial curriculum for most young schoolboys: pineapple peel, brown sugar and water buried in a jar for a few days!

Once when I had mumps and was in bed upstairs in our house in Mbabane, my brother Mpunzane remembered a jar he had buried and forgot about when he went off to boarding school, three months before.

When he loosened the soil above it, the jar exploded, shooting the lid into the eaves outside my room. Impressive brew!

I think that was when we got the warning from Dad.

Mpunzane, who became a beer rep for a while, tells me it is marula season in Swaziland and he has plans for for some muganu – marula beer to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Those of you who have seen elephants and baboons staggering about after eating rotting marula fruit, will know that a potent beer is possible.

If you are totally teetotal in rural Africa, your other and probably only alternative is amasi, which is yogurt before it was invented.  

Sorry for you!

Story proposed by Mike Ellis

Pancakes

Even though I say it myself, I regard my culinary talents as adventurous, even challenging!

I only married in my 30’s, so had a fair bit of cooking experience in my bachelor days, despite living in Africa where cooks were often employed for most meals. Of course being an African male, I am an experienced vleis braaier, which is Afrikaans for ‘meat guerrilla’.

The braaivleis, known as barbeque in many parts of the world, is a cultural practice which involves the cooking of piles of meat. The cooking often takes place after a few drinks and is not really that important; the meat just has to look cooked. It often does in the evening twilight, after a few beers…

But I am not here to talk about meat, of which, I have realised, I eat too much. Accordingly, I have resolved to give up meat for Lent in accordance with older traditions and instead of beer, …. Maybe next year.

My wife is perturbed as I said that I would eat more fish, which she is not fond of. So I have set out to show her that there is no need to fear, by cooking some fishcakes as a surprise.

In order to ensure a special dish, I used my pilchards in chili sauce, which I had been saving for a treat. I combined it with some bread crumbs of the nutty, seedy bread she prefers. To make the mixture more special and because she doesn’t like raw onion, I used sliced pickled onion, which I thought was quite innovative. To add some colour, I added a couple of sliced pepperdews, small red capsicums in a sweet syrup. I mixed in an egg for binding, salt and pepper seasoning and some finely chopped parsley from the garden. Simple!

Please note, this was my own recipe!

The mixture made six and a half cakes, which I fried in olive oil. Even though I say it myself, they were delicious! (A couple fell apart, so I had to eat them for lunch).

To my consternation, my wife turned down the fishcakes without hesitation – she doesn’t like tuna, chili or my cooking, especially when I try different ingredients…

Looks like I’ll be cooking for myself for the 40 days of Lent.

P.S. I had a nibble of half a cake before I went to bed. I must confess I had a very weird dream about riding an Afrikander bull which was chased by a lion past a lion reserve full of identical lions following each other, holding the tail of the foremost one in their mouths…

Ooops! Sorry… did you say pancakes?

Hey those are easy – I made some on Tuesday. Just add water to the mix, skud die bottel and fry on a hot pan. Delicious with Maple Syrup and Lemon Juice.

I ate them all – no dreams even.

The head in the window

You’re dreaming – there’s nothing there. The house is all broken down, no-one has lived there for ages, it’s dangerous. Look the doors are boarded up.

I saw a man, he was smiling. He was wearing a striped t-shirt and had sideburns.

Oooh! Was he good looking too? Maybe your Prince Charming! In your dreams!

 The girls left and ambled home. They knew they couldn’t tell anyone where they’d been as the house was strictly off-limits.

But the experience plagued, her curiosity itched like a flea-bitten cat. She had to find out.

The next day Patsy gave Ursula the slip, lingering in the library until her friend had gone off with others to hockey. She had a sore toe anyway, so wouldn’t have gone…

It was a rash thing to do, but Ursula had been so dismissive and teasing, she didn’t want to ask her to go back there. So she sang the song her dad had taught her:

I’m a brave, brave mouse, I go marching through the house,

And I am not afraid of anything….

She arrived and stood nervously in front of the window. She took a deep breath and called out:  hellooo, …. anyone there? My name is Patsy and I live down the road. I won’t tell if you want to be a secret.

Hellooo! …. Isn’t it lonely up there with no-one to talk to?

Helloooo …  she saw a flicker of movement at the window, so she waved saying: here I am, its only me here …

Go away, leave me alone! The reply was muffled, but not that emphatic.

Patsy was a bit of a bulldog; when she set her mind at something, she persisted.

I will if you really want me to, but it must get lonely up there with no-one to talk to.

She heard nothing, then faint footsteps and a door at the side of the house opened with a creaking screech.

Her heart leaped into her mouth and she gripped her schoolbag, ready to run. Then she remembered the man had smiled and he had sounded so lonely!  I am a brave, brave… she walked slowly forward and peered round the door.

She was surprised! She recognised the young man who stood inside the room, away from the door, looking nervously behind her.

Who are you, Is there anyone else with you, do they know where you are, why are you here, did they send you?  

His words were gabbled and fearful; he retreated into a corner, where there was a sleeping bag and a rucksack.

Are you hungry? I have an apple and a cheese sandwich in my bag, I don’t like cheese but Mum says it’s good for me…

His eyes lit up and he licked his lips: I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning.

I know who you are, you’re from the family who moved in round the corner from my house. My name’s Patsy by the way and I am in year 4 at St Marks, aren’t you supposed to be at uni or work or something, why are you hiding here?

 He was wolfing the food down, clearly famished. Penny was fascinated.

Nobody knows I’m here, I’ll get into so much trouble, but I knew I saw a face and you looked so friendly but all alone. Ursula din’t believe me and said I’m a dreamer…

And are you? A dreamer? I am, maybe that’s my problem..

Well sometimes, not really but …  I do have weird thoughts Ursula says. She’s my best friend. I skipped hockey to come and see if you were real. Why are you here?

I’m hiding from them, they followed me to our new house, I thought they would stay in Mount Pleasant when we moved.

Who are they? No-one saw me come here, I came along the path that runs near our house

They stand in the shadows, but I hear them speak… they say terrible things. It’s okay if I take my pills but I lost them when we moved and they found me.

Well! said Patsy, with all the authority that a 9 year old can muster,  you can’t stay here forever with no food, you better come with me. I’ll take you to our house and my Mum can get your more pills, she’s a nurse and my Dad will go to your house and chase those voice people away. He’s a policeman and people listen to what he says, or else!

The young man balked but without much energy and the child chivvied him to pack up his stuff, which he did.

She took his hand and led him home and all was as she said it would be.

Jack Smythe had been missing for 3 days.

Story proposed by Patsy Youngleson

Working in a mad house

Mimics abound. One can’t clean the windows without a number of offers to help and wide advice on technique. Taking out the trash is hazardous as someone is bound to follow.

Places like this are different, full of friendly, lonely and knowledgeable people. There are some who are unresponsive to their environments, smothered in their inner agonies, but they keep to themselves, sometimes gazing at static screens for hours on end.

Most are happy but bored and seek any stimulation and opportunity to espouse their important advice. At least three or four people ask me to listen to their theories and analyses each day – all for a willing ear, just to be believed.

It’s the data! It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t say what I mean! What can I do next, who can I ask?

Look out for Henry, he’s brilliant but he is a terrible narcissist, I bet he’s psychopath – he tells such lies! But he’s so convincing nobody challenges him.

Just because I am not computer literate doesn’t mean I’m a dummy – why am I still here, they treat me like a cabbage.

If I have to speak to another nutcase who thinks research is a conspiracy I am going to scream….!

Why are we here?

Everything is so easy for some people – look at him, he just knows what everything means all the time – he’s a bloody genius!

 I think that woman is a nympho, look at the way men are drooling at her, they should lock her up… and them too!

The other day the way in was blocked and no one could get in and no-one could go out. They even called the Police.

Lunchtime conversations are varied and entertaining and disclose a great deal about morale and the culture of the place.

I’m there because I have to clean up afterwards. As I say there is never a shortage of willing helpers – they are not eager to get back to the grindstone.

Working as a cleaner in a research company is worse than working in a madhouse!

Story proposed by Michelle Craik

The Joy of Cousins

If you are broke and in a strange place, you will feel some joy if you have a cousin in town. Somehow it is easy to impose without too much conscience and beg some space to spread a sleeping bag. Of course they are then obliged to feed you.

This can be a tad awkward if they share the house with others or you only met them once for tea 12 years before. Also, if you have been hitch-hiking and travelling you are likely to be quite smelly and probably use all the hot water. To contribute, you buy some milk in return for the dinners and breakfasts you enjoyed.

Pretty sure they don’t mind you using their washing machine and dryer.

Mind you, I have only done it to a couple of cousins – only one was compelled by domestic pressure to move me on after one night. He was embarrassed but I am quite sensitive and sensible.

I spent the next night with a bunch of druggies in a Surrey Docks squat, sharing a room with an intense Canadian jockey who carried a Browning .45 pistol. The floor was sticky because all the carpet had been ripped up. They fed me eggs and bacon fried in hash oil … they didn’t have to ask me to leave.

My posh cousin in the country put me on a train to her parents after one night – she had young children and ponies to exercise. I had a great time in the country with my uncle and aunt and even learned to quite like bitter.

In the long run, it balances out – cousins visiting Africa had a great time with my two brothers. They even sent a lady friend to visit my single brother in Swaziland. She was a barrister, but he was evasive.

We were blessed by a visit from one of their children (cousin once removed?) in New Zealand on her OE. It was good to give a little back.

My best success was a month and that was not strictly a cousin but my brother in law’s brother who let me sleep in a studio when I was homeless and unemployed in Rhodesia. That was a Christian act!

If I met me in those days I might have thought I was a bit of a rough, well diamond in the rough, as I am family…

In fact, I think that my UK cousins must have thought that too.

But they still gave me a bed and fed me – that’s the joy of cousins.

Story proposed by Jane Longshaw